Success Story: Las Vegas Keeps Resident Engagement, Equity Top of Mind

The city of Las Vegas uses a unique juvenile justice system program, the preservation of a historic educational site, and school district collaboration to address inequities.

Las Vegas, Nevada

This success story was originally published as a 2018 All-America City Award project description and is reprinted courtesy of the National Civic League. Learn more about the award program here.

City by Design provides residents, stakeholders, staff, and elected officials with a collective vision and plans for a future filled with income equality and economic mobility. Las Vegas is also bridging the digital divide to reach innovative digital inclusion with free community Wi-Fi. Connect Home, a recent city project with the local housing authority, provided free Wi-Fi, technology, and training to public housing and Section 8 residents.

Three project examples showing how this community leverages civic engagement, collaboration, inclusiveness and innovation to successfully address local issues:

1. The Harbor
The Harbor is a Juvenile Assessment Center located in Las Vegas that addresses disproportionate minority contact as it diverts youth, primarily youth of color, from the juvenile justice system. A multi-agency collaboration, The Harbor includes staff and supervision from the Clark County Department of Juvenile Justice Services, the City of Las Vegas, the Department of Family Services, Clark County School District, and many other organizations.

Through collaboration, these agencies provide safe haven for vulnerable teens and their families. The program ensures that it is responsive to its participants’ needs by including them in decision-making processes and having youth serve on the Executive Steering Committee. The Harbor helps mitigate barriers to services by not charging families or requiring insurance and by allowing undocumented families to receive services.

The Harbor provides assessments and services to get young people back on track after experiencing troubles with drugs and alcohol, truancy, mental health, etc. The program addresses current as well as ongoing needs for each and every youth. Youth can enter The Harbor through law enforcement as an alternative to Department of Juvenile Justice Services booking, through community outreach, or through an agency referral.

Since its inception, The Harbor has assisted over 3,000 youth and families. Of these 3,000 youth, only 115 have escalated to Juvenile Justice Services. This represents a success rate of approximately 96 percent. The Harbor is also part of the Las Vegas My Brother’s Keeper Alliance, which is a partnership of community organizations focused on community engagement, educational equity, and law enforcement.

2. Our Stories
In 2010, The Westside School Alumni Foundation (WSAF) was founded to preserve the historic Westside School site, educate the public on its history and value, and to encourage the development of the vacant school as a cultural destination. The Westside School, which opened in 1923, was the first Las Vegas school to open its doors to African American and Native American students. Today, the school site stands as a testament to Las Vegas’ ongoing efforts to facilitate racial healing and community dialogue.

One of the first major projects for the WSAF was the development of a book. The book detailed the history of the school and surrounding neighborhood as told by the people who lived it. Photos, artifacts, and personal memorabilia were collected to provide context and insight. Billed as a major community event, the book launch was a huge success and all proceeds of book sales were directly returned to the community through educational stipends and youth scholarships.

In 2016, the city passed a community development plan intent on revitalizing the Westside School community. The community was highly engaged in the visioning process and encouraged to attend meetings and contribute ideas. The resulting plans from this process were incorporated into the Las Vegas 2035 Downton Master Plan, making it an official city council-approved document to be incorporated into future development.

3. ReInvent Schools Las Vegas
ReInvent Schools Las Vegas (RSLV) is a collaboration that brings together government, local businesses, private and non-profit organizations, and the community to address educational equity across the school district. As the fifth largest school district in the county, the Clark County School District, which includes the City of Las Vegas, faces many difficult challenges. Most children at RSLV schools reside within a food desert. In southern Nevada alone, it is reported that 36.8 percent of children are overweight or obese.

To reduce the number of students who are overweight or obese, RSLV is working with Create a Change Now, a partnership focused on the new Healthy School, Healthy Life Program. The program has five components:

  1. Garden clubs,
  2. Chefs in schools,
  3. Let’s Move fitness programs/yoga,
  4. Pop-Up Produce, and
  5. Nutrition lessons.

All of these programs use different strategies to help students and their families develop healthy relationships with food and nutrition, while learning essential information about health and wellbeing.

Health and wellness is only one of RSLV’s initiatives. They have also partnered with AmeriCorps to battle truancy and provide literacy interventions. Most recently, the City of Las Vegas joined youth and adults of RSLV and with community members in funding and producing an All-America City float in the 36th Annual Las Vegas Martin Luther King Jr. Day Parade.


Additional Resources

Meet the Manager

manager

Scott D. Adams, ICMA-CM

City Manager
Scott Adams serves as Las Vegas city manager and previously served as a deputy city manager overseeing the departments of Economic and Urban Development, Community Services, Cultural Affairs and Parks and Recreation. Scott has also held the position of chief urban redevelopment officer and director of the Office of Business Development (renamed the Economic and Urban Development Department) for five years. Prior to his service with the city, Mr. Adams held numerous positions in the field of urban economic development, including:
  • Director of the Jefferson Parish Economic Development Commission in New Orleans, Louisiana
  • Director of Planning and Economic Development with the city of Fort Lauderdale, Florida
  • Executive Director of the New Orleans Regional Medical Center, Inc.
  • Executive Vice President of the Greater Norfolk (Virginia) Corporation
  • Executive Director of the Jacksonville (Florida) Downtown Development Authority
  • Assistant Executive Director of the Center City Commission in Memphis, Tennessee
  • Planning and development positions in his hometown of Jackson, Michigan
A 1977 urban planning graduate of Michigan State University, Scott was given the American Institute of Planners Award as the top graduate. He is a certified manager with the International City/County Management Association, a member of the International Economic Development Council and the Urban Land Institute. and a past member of the American Institute of Certified Planners. Excerpted with minor editing from the Las Vegas, Nevada website: https://www.lasvegasnevada.gov/Government/Departments/City-Managers-Offi...

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